Dramatic Texts >> Perch Zeytuntsyan >> Unfinished Monologue

UNFINISHED MONOLOGUE by Perch Zeytuntsyan
 
CAST OF CHARACTERS
 
RAFAYEL AVETYAN - Head of a construction crew in the Ministry of Public Works; currently engaged in building a rail link. At various points he is referred to endearingly as rafik or rafo.
ANAHIT - His wife
HASMIK - His daughter; a divorcee looking for a husband
VIGEN -His son; a teenager applying for admission to a university
ARSEN -His father
Rafayel’s maternal AUNT
BENO - His cousin
ELEONORA - His sister; recently separated from her husband
ELYA and NORA - ELEONORA’s children
LOVER-BOY SHAHEN - Rafayel’s school friend
HAYK MARKOSYAN - RAFAYEL’s superior at the Ministry
MARKOSYAN's’s secretary
HAMO - RAFAYEL’s right-hand man; humorous and practical
ZHANNA - RAFAYEL’s secretary; habitually late for work
RAFAYEL’s construction crew:
KARAPETYAN
HAMBARDZUMYAN - His deputy
AZATYAN
RUBEN
VANIK
ARSHALUYS
SARGSYAN
CHILINGIRYAN
SONYA - An employee at the Ministry
NORA - An employee at the Ministry, whose major attribute is her lovely legs
a photographer
LUCY EVARDOVNA - Wife of comrade Arshakyan, with whom RAFAYEL has a relationship of some intimacy and standing
COMRADE ARUSHANYAN - An upper official at the Ministry for Public Works, who becomes deputy minister in the course of the play.
FIRST OFFICIAL
SECOND OFFICIAL
THIRD OFFICIAL
A NEIGHBOUR
 
ACT I
Rafayel Avetyan’s house
 
ANAHIT
You know, Rafik, I’m glad you get sick once in a while. You stay home and we get to see your face. You seem to need me more when you’re ill. I like that a lot.
 
RAFAYEL
Okay, what’s it this time? If it’s not the plumbing, it has to be the furniture. Right?
 
ANAHIT
I don’t have to say a thing. It’s obvious the house is in ruins. Some people change their furniture every two years. Looking at myself in the mirror I realize the furniture’s as old as I look. We both need a makeover.
 
RAFAYEL
You old? Never! You’ll always be the young thing I married. You know we can’t afford new furniture just now. It’s a waste of breath speaking about it. If you can hang on a few more years with the same furniture, you’ll both get a facelift. A shoemaker’s wife has no shoes. You know the old saying. That’s life.
 
(RAFAYEL’s  AUNT enters in a smock.)
 
AUNT
Rafik, dear . . .
 
RAFAYEL
Auntie? I thought you were leaving this morning.
 
AUNT
I’m in no hurry. Are you tired of me already? How many aunts do you have anyway? Here I am in the big city, and what do you do? You should take me out places, show me around, and get me a few souvenirs of the trip, like having our photograph taken together.
 
ANAHIT
I’ll take you wherever you want, Auntie.
 
AUNT
That’d be nice. Oh, and while I’m complaining . . . Do you think I could sleep on this soft divan instead of that hard cot in the back room?
 
RAFAYEL
By all means, Auntie dear. Sleep wherever you want.
 
AUNT
How good of you. You wouldn’t want me to go without sleep, now would you? If you really loved your AUNT, you’d use your pull to get my son, BENO, a job. All he wants is to be a busboy at the station buffet. I’m sure if you called Serob on our district council, he’d see to it that that lazy so-and-so Vagharshak gave BENO the job. That’s not asking much. Besides, the poor boy has six kids, ooh . . .
 
RAFAYEL
Six?
 
AUNT
It’ll be seven tomorrow.
 
(The doorbell rings.)
 
That doorbell of yours never stops. Can’t we have a little peace to deal with BENO’s problem? I tell you what. You don’t get him the job, and your AUNT’s going to be here for a long stay.
 
(She goes into the next room. ANAHIT goes to open the door. She returns with HAMO.  HAMO takes off his shoes.)
 
HAMO
(laying a package on the table)
Boss, you sure as hell found the right time to have a heart attack.
 
RAFAYEL
A touch of angina, that’s all. Forget it.
(Pointing to the package
What’ve you there?
 
HAMO
Brandy, boss. The best.
 
ANAHIT
You shouldn’t have, Comrade Hamo. You’re too kind.
 
RAFAYEL
Hold on, ANAHIT. (To HAMO) Take this brandy back with you. You know I don’t like expensive gifts.
 
HAMO
But, boss, this is my first visit. I couldn’t very well come empty-handed.
 
RAFAYEL
Did you hear what I said? Do I have to spell it out for you? Bring flowers instead. They’re cheap, and pretty.
 
ANAHIT
Actually, dear, flowers aren’t that cheap any more. (She realizes her presence is superfluous and exits.)
 
RAFAYEL (furious): How many times have I told you not to set foot in this house? I don’t give a damn what’s going on in the office. Never come here.
 
HAMO
A man from the INISTRY was snooping around in our books, boss. Can you imagine, he didn’t take any money. Some young kid, just out of training.
 
RAFAYEL
What’s his name?
 
HAMO
Karapetyan.
 
RAFAYEL
Did he find anything?
 
HAMO
We filed paperwork for a paycheck to be issued to a workman while he was on leave at a state spa. The money wasn’t appropriated, because the job was allocated to a subcontractor. Okay, we messed up. But it’s a misdemeanor, not a crime.
 
RAFAYEL
That’s it?
 
HAMO
For now. But he’s digging around, and he’s bound to find something. If the jerk discovers we’re way over budget, laying thirteen kilometers of rail link for the industrial complex instead of the specified four—
 
RAFAYEL
Okay, okay. Keep your voice down. Let’s wait and see. You say he’s an honest guy.
 
HAMO
That’s just the trouble. His honesty could get in the way of our plans. Let him keep it to himself, I say, and let us get on with our lives. Don’t you agree, boss?
 
RAFAYEL
Shower him with money. Drown him in the stuff. And see if he comes to his senses.
 
HAMO
Where’s the dough coming from, Comrade Avetyan.
 
RAFAYEL
Me. Here’s the key to my safe. Give him as much as you can carry. If some finds its way into your pocket, no matter, take it. I don’t keep tabs on how much there is.
 
HAMO
I don’t know, boss. Maybe you should handle it. I’m not the smooth talker you are.
 
RAFAYEL
No, I don’t like dealing with rookies. I can’t help sympathizing with them.
 
HAMO
Oh, to be in his shoes. He’s probably never seen so much money.
 
RAFAYEL
(surly) He won’t take it.
 
HAMO
Who are you kidding, Comrade Avetyan? He’ll take it all right.
 
RAFAYEL
He won’t.
 
HAMO
Of course he will, and how!
 
RAFAYEL
No way. I know the type.
 
(RAFAYEL’s father, ARSEN, comes in.)
 
ARSEN
Rafik, Sahak next door went to senior citizens’ bureau to see about a pension increase. The clerk on duty demanded a pay-off. You’ve got to help him. Tell his superiors to rap the creep over the knuckles and raise Sahak’s pension. Do me this favor, Son, okay?
 
RAFAYEL
I’ll look into it, Pop.
 
ARSEN
Remember, I gave Sahak my word. Your word and mine are the same, right?
 
RAFAYEL
Right, Dad. Don’t worry.
 
(Pause.  ARSEN looks quizzically at RAFAYEL, then at  HAMO. He realizes he has interrupted their business.)
 
ARSEN
See you later. (Unable quite to tear himself away) I’m going to visit a teacher friend of mine. I’ll bring him here one of these days so you can meet him. What a refined vocabulary he has. No ordinary cookies for him, only dainty sweetmeats. Well, okay, bye now.
 
(He goes out.)
 
HAMO
So what’s our plan, boss?
 
RAFAYEL
Relax. Forget what I said before. Of course he’ll take the money. Grease the kid’s palm. Enough to bury him. Then, if he takes it, bring him to see me.
 
HAMO
Didn’t you say not to come here?
 
RAFAYEL
I’ll see the guy, if he goes for the dough.
 
HAMO
Okay, I’m off, boss. God help me.
 
RAFAYEL
On your way back, buy some carnations for my wife. And, by the way, don’t take off your shoes in the house. Wipe your feet on the mat before coming in. Got that? Okay. Here’s money for the carnations.
 
HAMO
What’s that for, boss? If you’re so keen on carnations, I’ll bring you a hundred fresh every day.
 
(He is about to go.)
 
RAFAYEL (suddenly serious): Hamo, don’t even try to cross me. I keep close tabs on my money.
 
HAMO
That’s for sure. Oh, I almost forgot . . .
(Handing  RAFAYEL a lottery ticket
Here you are, boss. Enjoy it. You’ve won the lottery.
 
RAFAYEL
What’s the prize?
 
HAMO
You know. The Zhiguli you wanted. With air conditioning.
 
RAFAYEL
How much did you give the lotto official on top of the price of the ticket?
 
HAMO
The going rate. Enjoy.
 
RAFAYEL
Good. Take the brandy with you.
 
HAMO
Don’t get me wrong, boss. I brought it to make my coming here look like a social visit.
 
RAFAYEL
Hamo, don’t do me any favors I don’t need.
 
HAMO
Sure, boss. Enough said.
 
(He goes out.)
 
RAFAYEL
(As if talking to the auditor) Comrade Karapetyan, do you hear me? I’ve never met you, but I want to give you some advice. Auditing’s not for wimps. Be a man, okay? Resist it . . . one moment. Just resist it for a moment. The rest’s easy. I’ve cursed that Hamo’s hide. Count to ten and you’ll win . . . count . . . count . . . what is it? Have you forgotten how to count? It’s not like a prayer that you can forget so easily. Don’t give in. Please don’t forget—one moment, one moment at least . . .
 
(He is about to go.)
 
ANAHIT
(entering, concerned
Where do you think you’re off to? . . . In your condition, you’re not supposed to—
 
RAFAYEL
I’ll only be gone ten minutes. I’m taking a turn round the block to get some fresh air.
 
The scene is set at the Comtroller’s office of  RAFAYEL’s construction plant.  RAFAYEL is at a staff meeting with the members of his crew.
 
RAFAYEL
(addressing his staff ) I suppose you thought I’d had it? You’d never see me again? (RAFAYEL’s secretary,   ZHANNA, enters.) ZHANNA, is that you late again? What happened this time?
 
ZHANNA
Excuse me, Rafayel  Arsenich, I almost fell under a tram.
 
RAFAYEL
What tram?
 
ZHANNA
Number eight.
 
RAFAYEL
Who are you trying to kid? I don’t want to hear any more of your stories.
 
ZHANNA
Shall I put on coffee?
 
RAFAYEL
No.
 
ZHANNA
Are you in, if anyone calls?
 
RAFAYEL
No. (To ARSHALUYS) Arshaluys?
 
ARSHALUYS
Yes, Comrade Avetyan.
 
(Standing up in Avetyan’s presence)
 
RAFAYEL
Sit down when you speak, lad. Before I fell ill, you said you wanted a transfer. Where’s your application? It’s not on my desk. Bring it so I can sign it, and you can go. Sahakyan will take your place.
 
ARSHALUYS
Excuse me, Comrade Avetyan. That was only talk. I was running a temperature the day I thought about the transfer.
 
RAFAYEL
Chilled out now? Back to normal?
 
ARSHALUYS
I’m fine. Thanks.
 
RAFAYEL
As for you, Chilingiryan, you’re out. I’ve no time for your speeches now. I’ll talk to you on the fifteenth. (Adding pregnantly) On the other side of the bridge.
 
CHILINGIRYAN
We won’t complete that section of track by then, Comrade Avetyan.
 
RAFAYEL
If you’re still on this side of the bridge, you’re out, as I said, despite your application to stay on here. Look alive. (To  AZATYAN)  Listen, Azatyan, I’ll be at the site tomorrow at noon to check whether the fitters have received their bonus for all the overtime they’re putting in.
 
AZATYAN
No can do, Comrade Avetyan. I’m forty percent over budget.
 
RAFAYEL
I’ll cover your deficit.
 
AZATYAN
How?
 
RAFAYEL
(humorously) With a pep talk.
 
AZATYAN
Then what?
 
RAFAYEL
If I have to, I’ll fire you.
 
AZATYAN
What? That’s not fair. How would that help?
 
RAFAYEL
It’d help us lay those thirteen kilometers of rail track. You’ll go, but those thirteen kilometers will stay. Ultimately we’ll all go, but the rail link will be around forever. See what I mean?
 
AZATYAN
You’re looking at a law suit, Comrade Avetyan.
 
RAFAYEL
Arshaluys, what percentage of the overall budget is required to cover Azatyan’s deficit?
 
ARSHALUYS
Whatever you need it to be.
 
RAFAYEL
Did you hear? There you go, Sargsyan. Fix it. Don’t waste your breath trying to talk me out of it.
 
SARGSYAN
We can’t move ahead without the wire shipment. It would have been better if you’d talked with the suppliers yourself.
 
RAFAYEL
Wire, wire. Hamo, take a note. I’ve got to line up a hundred tons of wire.
 
HAMO
That blows my mind.
 
RAFAYEL
Write it down, I’m telling you. Anything else?
 
HAMBARJUMYAN
The trench is ready to lay the pipes, but we’re completely out of them. Ceramic, and cast iron.
 
RAFAYEL
How many meters?
 
HAMBARJUMYAN
A thousand.
 
HAMO
(HAMO dials a telephone number and hands the receiver to RAFAYEL) Galust.
 
RAFAYEL
My regards. How are you, Galust? Did you ever have those hothouses inspected? Too bad. How can I help you? Glass? How many meters do you need?
 
HAMBARJUMYAN
We don’t have any here.
 
RAFAYEL
Three hundred? I’ll give you four hundred meters. After all, what are friends for? It just so happens I need a thousand meters of pipe . . . cast iron . . . ten to twelve dumes . . . You put the order together and I’ll have it picked up. The girls in the planning office won’t create any problems. Hamo will take care of them. Good for you. (He replaces the receiver.) Hamo, take a note: trench, planning office, girls, pipe.
 
HAMBARJUMYAN
Where are we going to get glass from?
 
RAFAYEL
Think pipes, pipes, pipes.
 
HAMO
(He picks up the phone and dials.)  
Perfume department? Aharon . . . Hold on.
 
(He hands the phone to RAFAYEL.)
 
RAFAYEL
Aharon? Hello. Rafik. Okay, I’m fine. No problem, it was a minor thing, nothing serious. Listen, Hamo’s coming over. Give him some French perfume. Do you have any of that popular Fiji brand? Excellent. Take care. (Replacing the receiver) Hamo, take those bottles of Fiji perfume and give them to the girls in the planning office and bring me Galust’s paperwork for the pipes.
 
HAMO
A bottle of Fiji costs thirty to forty rubles.
 
RAFAYEL
Put in a requisition order for the perfume, and I’ll think of something.
 
HAMO
How should I fudge it?
 
RAFAYEL
Put down anything, just get it on paper. Write it off as funeral expenses for your granny.
 
HAMO
My granny’s died twice this year already. Remember? Once when we had to call in the firemen, the other time to cover my car repairs.
 
RAFAYEL
Okay. Vanik. You handle the paperwork.
 
VANIK
My granny kicked the bucket this year as well, I think.
 
RAFAYEL
Ruben, How’s yours doing?
 
RUBEN
Both my granny and grandpa are gone.
 
RAFAYEL
Is there no one in the office with a granny who’s still alive and kicking?
 
HAMO
Not this year, boss.
 
RAFAYEL
Sargsyan, what news of the joists?
 
SARGSYAN
The joists are Poghosyan’s baileywick.
 
RAFAYEL
Poghosyan, what happened to the joists?
 
POGHOSYAN
Joists? That’s Chilingiryan’s baby.
 
RAFAYEL
Chilingiryan, what’s up with the joists?
 
CHILINGIRYAN
The joists have been here for ages.
 
RAFAYEL
Where are they?
 
CHILINGIRYAN
They’re here.
 
RAFAYEL
(shouting) Where are they?
 
CHILINGIRYAN
(turning pale) Actually, the joists are Manik’s responsibility.
 
RAFAYEL
Manik—
 
SARGSYAN
Manik’s out sick.
 
HAMO
Boss, what are those joists for?
 
RAFAYEL
Didn’t you hear? I promised to get Galust some glass. Since we don’t have any, how am I going to get my hands on some? We’ll exchange the joists for glass, give the glass to Galust, the perfume to the girls in the planning office, and transfer Galust’s budget to our  account. Meeting’s over. Back to work. I’m off, Zhanna.
 
The scene changes to  HAYK MARKOSYAN’s office. Bent over the table, comrade Markosyan is busy writing.
 
SECRETARY
(entering) He’s waiting.
 
MARKOSYAN
Let him wait.
 
SECRETARY
It’s time for your lunch break, Comrade Markosyan.
 
MARKOSYAN
Already? (Looking at his watch) All the better. Let him wait.
 
(The secretary pours tea from a small samovar, hands it to MARKOSYAN, and exits.  MARKOSYAN lays the papers to one side, pulls out a modest packet from a drawer, and begins to eat. The door opens noisily, and   RAFAYEL avetyan bursts in furiously. He is taken by surprise seeing MARKOSYAN at his break. He hesitates a moment in confusion, then, without saying hello, goes up to the smallish table in the corner, takes bread and cheese from MARKOSYAN’s packet, and begins to eat and drink tea. Both eat in silence.)
 
MARKOSYAN
Waiting gets on your nerves, doesn’t it?
 
RAFAYEL
Is that what you called to tell me?
 
MARKOSYAN
I’ve been waiting a year and four months for you to move the project ahead.
 
RAFAYEL
Here’s an application form. I’ve brought it so as not to keep you in suspense any longer.
 
MARKOSYAN
Another application. Time for a transfer, is it? Throwing in the towel again?
 
RAFAYEL
Just don’t try to change my mind. It’s a waste of time.
 
MARKOSYAN
Try to appreciate what I’m saying. How can I cover for you when you flit from one position to another? What do you mean? You’re the only decent guy around here. Everyone else, me included, is petty and corrupt. Forget it, Rafik, the rest of us can’t all be bad. Anyway, no one will buy it.
 
RAFAYEL
Okay, pal. I’m the bad lemon. Are we done?
 
MARKOSYAN
What do you think? That’s what they’re going to say. I can’t give you unconditional support against all of them. I don’t have the right. Even if I think you’re justified.
 
RAFAYEL
You’re right. When have you ever been wrong? On this side of the door, everything’s right. You’re right, every one of you.
 
MARKOSYAN
At school your son said hello to me, and I didn’t even recognize him. He said, “It’s me, Uncle VIGEN.” I said to myself, “Damn your father, for not letting me get to know you.” Eat up, eat up, don’t leave your sandwich half finished. From now on you have to change your tactics and start portraying me, not yourself, in a bright light. Even if you and I put our friendship aside when it comes to business, the people around us don’t miss a thing, Rafik, not a thing. I can’t afford to have them start badmouthing me.
 
RAFAYEL
Am I to blame that people like you keep up with friends from your student days? Don’t make inquiries, so you don’t have to get in touch with me.
 
MARKOSYAN
As for that rail link, put it out of your mind. It’s impossible, Rafik. Forget it right this instant.
 
RAFAYEL
(agitated) Don’t broadcast the rail link to everybody, I beg you, Hayk. I really beg you. I’ll pass on, but those thirteen kilometers will stay. Then you’ll go, but the railway will still be there. (He wants to have a smoke, but he can’t get the lighter to work.) People often present you with lighters. Can I have one?
 
(MARKOSYAN opens a drawer and hands RAFAYEL a lighter.)
 
MARKOSYAN
As soon as you run into difficulties, you file an application for transfer and run up the white flag. Did you think I didn’t know you were secretly building that rail link? All  thirteen kilometers of it instead of the original four. Did you think I didn’t realize that without those thirteen kilometers the industrial complex wouldn’t be constructed on time, and, after construction, would only function at half capacity? What difference does it make whether I grasp that or not? It’s all over and done with. You didn’t submit your review of the plans in time.
 
RAFAYEL
That’s good. You’re answering your own question.
 
MARKOSYAN
I’m asking the question, Rafik. You’re the one who has to answer it ultimately. Don’t forget that. By the way, this is a no-smoking area.
 
RAFAYEL
(extinguishing his cigarette) You put me in a cage and then tell me to get out. It can’t be done. You can’t force me. It’s not my fault you’ve become incapable of assuming responsibility for things. If you don’t want to, so be it, but please don’t get in the way of others.
 
MARKOSYAN
Who the hell do you think you are? Who are you to make decisions on your own? You’re supposed to carry them out. That’s your job description.What? Are they going to set up a statue in your honor? Are they going to say, “This guy thinks he runs the country, he took the responsibility on his own shoulders, let’s give him a round of applause.” (Pause) You know what? If you want it that badly, damn you. I’ll go along with you. Go and do it.
 
RAFAYEL
Okay, but thirteen kilometers, not four. And, of course, you know nothing about it.
 
MARKOSYAN
Nothing at all.
 
RAFAYEL
All hell will break loose the day you do hear about it.
 
MARKOSYAN
Yes, Rafik, be warned. It’ll be hell.
 
(RAFAYEL gets up and moves toward the door.)
 
RAFAYEL
One more request, Hayk, a personal one.
 
MARKOSYAN
It better not have more than three points.
 
RAFAYEL
You have to find me four extra apartments. I’ve invited experts to work on the railway. They’ve nowhere to stay. I promised.
 
MARKOSYAN
Anything else? What about something for yourself?
 
RAFAYEL
I’m the only master builder in the whole project. You have to assign three
more to my staff.
 
MARKOSYAN
Anything else?
 
RAFAYEL
I owe you big just for that.
 
MARKOSYAN
You let me off easy this time. Good luck then.
 
RAFAYEL
You’re making light of this in vain. Let’s see if you’re still smiling once it’s
over.
 
MARKOSYAN
(smiling) Only one person makes threats in this office, Comrade Avetyan. Only one.
 
The scene changes to RAFAYEL avetyan’s house.
 
VIGEN
(agitated) Who’s this Mnakyan? Mom said he’s an acquaintance of yours. Is that right? He said he could help me get through the entrance exams.
 
RAFAYEL
Mnakyan’s not an acquaintance, Son. He’s a close friend. Not only can he help, he can guarantee you’ll be accepted.
 
VIGEN
You’re so laid back about the whole thing. Every applicant needs pull to get in, right?
 
RAFAYEL
Pull, and more—
 
VIGEN
Money?
 
RAFAYEL
Loads of money. You know, money?
 
VIGEN
I wasn’t born yesterday.
 
RAFAYEL
So you know. (Caught off guard) And without my bringing up the subject? Absolutely right.
 
(He shouts.)  
 
ANAHIT!
 
VIGEN
What’s up, Dad? Did I say something wrong?
 
RAFAYEL
No. Not at all. But why should you be right? (He shouts angrily.)  ANAHIT! (To  VIGEN) What else do you know? (He somehow manages to control himself. Putting the best face on it)  VIGEN, it doesn’t always work that way. If Mnakyan helps you, he’ll get you in through his connections.
 
VIGEN
Why are you making such a big deal out of it?
 
RAFAYEL
I don’t want you to go with the flow and follow the crowd. You need to make your own road in life.
 
VIGEN
But if you don’t dress like them, think like them, and live like them, you’re out.
 
RAFAYEL
I don’t believe my ears. You grew up before my eyes, and I never realized. . . I can’t forgive myself for being so blind. I only saw you getting taller and the stubble forming on your chin. And when your last birthday came round I suddenly said to myself, my boy’s growing up. I should have realized your mind was maturing as well.
 
VIGEN
So I’m not a kid anymore. Big deal, Dad. Now tell me, is Mnakyan going to come through or not?
 
ANAHIT’s voice
Phone, Rafik.
 
RAFAYEL
Off you go,  VIGEN.
 
VIGEN
I’m going nowhere without Mnakyan.
 
RAFAYEL
(picking up the receiver) I knew it was you. What about the pipes? Have you sent them? Who went with them? What do you mean, nobody? Are the pipes going to sprout tongues to talk their way through the red tape? Get in your car right now and catch up with the train. Yeah, yeah, if push comes to shove, you’ll be on the road for three months. Your family’s not going to pine
away. What are they going to miss, your pea-sized brain? You can sleep with the pipes. Don’t let me see you without the rails. We can’t make any progress without them. If you can’t take the heat, go ahead, send in an application for transfer. (He lays down the receiver.) Idiot.
 
ARSEN
(coming in) Rafik, let me have your car to go for a checkup. My blood sugar’s way up.
 
RAFAYEL
Okay, Dad. Gegham’ll take you, as soon as he gets back. (To VIGEN) If your head’s screwed on right, you’ll pass the test with flying colors, no matter who grades it. After all, the professor’s human too. Out of twenty-four hours, surely he can be human for fifteen minutes, can’t he? I want you to be one of the exceptions to get in under your own steam, Son. By the sweat of your brow. That way you’ll have done it yourself, without depending on others.
 
VIGEN
What if I don’t pass?
 
RAFAYEL
That means you’re mediocre. You couldn’t pass muster. So you’ll just try again next year. No matter what it takes till you’re admitted on your own merits. You may get a couple of bloody noses, but you’ll have the satisfaction of making it on your own.
 
(ANAHIT comes in.)
 
ANAHIT
(overhearing their conversation, frightened) He’ll have to do military service.
 
ARSEN
So what? We served, too, and we’re the better for it.
 
RAFAYEL
He’s right. The army’ll make a man of him.
 
VIGEN
Okay, say I make it on my own, does being a rugged individualist mean going without a proper suit or shoes?
 
RAFAYEL
Your mother’ll give you something out of the household allowance. I don’t need any hints from you that I’m not doing right by you. I’m doing the best I can. I don’t have to tell you how hard I work, day and night. And I make a pretty decent living. What can I do if we’re struggling to make ends meet?
 
VIGEN
Maybe Mom could get a job.
 
RAFAYEL
You really are street-smart. That’s none of your business. I’m surprised at you,  VIGEN.
 
VIGEN
I was just asking, that’s all.
 
ANAHIT
I’m very disappointed in you. So you think taking care of a home isn’t a full-time job?
 
RAFAYEL
(ironically) You see, ANAHIT, how much more sense sons have than their fathers. Did we ever have time to enjoy life when we were your age, Son? Maybe we were born at the wrong time. Maybe that was our fate. Just don’t pretend you have it so different from us. No, Son, we knew what life was about. We saw and heard a thing or two, things that never enter your head. That’s what life’s really all about, Son. You young people haven’t a clue.
 
VIGEN
I know you saw war and starvation. You ate rinds and peels. You spent all night standing in line. You wore galoshes. Is that what made a man out of you? Am I to blame there’s no war and starvation now? Is it my fault I don’t wear galoshes?
 
RAFAYEL
It’s not your fault, Son. But I wasn’t to blame either for wearing my friend’s old worn suit when I married your mother. Even now I only buy a new suit once every five years. So, should your mother work at her age so I can buy one every four years and you can have a new one every year? (He seizes VIGEN by the collar.) Listen, Son, if you don’t learn how to live within your means, you’ll never be happy in life, even if you’re a millionaire.
 
VIGEN
Stop lecturing me. I’m tired of hearing the same thing every day. (He takes hold of his father’s hand, which is tightly gripping his neck and pushes it away. RAFAYEL looks at him in astonishment.) Sorry, Dad. You were hurting me. Sorry. (RAFAYEL smiles, helpless and dismayed.) Sorry, Dad. I didn’t mean to.
 
RAFAYEL
(Taking out his wallet in confusion and handing VIGEN money) Here, go and get yourself whatever you want. Your mother’ll give it to me out of her allowance later.
 
VIGEN
I’ll need more than that. You can’t get what I want off the rack. I’ll have to
get it on the black market.
 
RAFAYEL
(still dazed) Sure, sure. Here. Take this, too. If you need more, you can have it. I don’t know the going rate.
 
VIGEN
That’s enough. See you later. Sorry, Dad, about . . . you know. You were really hurting me.
 
(He goes out, followed by ARSEN.)
 
RAFAYEL
ANAHIT!  VIGEN’s a good boy, a very good boy. He’s decent, bright. Does he have a girlfriend?
(ANAHIT shakes her head.) No? He’s a good boy. That’s what I thought. We did a fine job raising him. He’s okay. (Suddenly he shouts.) He knows how to bargain. Even with his father . . . sort of subtly. And did you see the kind of strength he had? I don’t know how he got so strong. He saw I was vulnerable and started bargaining to get over the awkwardness of the situation. To save his father’s face, he acknowledged my authority. And I, your husband, ANAHIT, flattered him by giving him lots of money to keep our father-son relationship intact.
(Returning to his normal tone of voice) He asked for money, and I gave him some. That’s all it was. Nothing more to it. No use imagining anything more. (Musing) You know, his suit did look out of date. The guys he hangs out with all wear the latest. So,  ANAHIT, everything’s okay.
 
ANAHIT
Seriously, Rafik, why shouldn’t I get a job? I made an excellent housewife. I’m sure I could do just as well in the job market. (Raising her hand to keep RAFAYEL from interrupting.) Don’t try to shut me up as you do others.
 
RAFAYEL
Okay, ANAHIT. Go ahead. I’m in a mild panic. But go ahead.
 
ANAHIT
You remember, when we got married, I left dentistry and devoted my whole life to you.
 
RAFAYEL
So?
 
ANAHIT
I learned how to match your shirts and ties.
 
RAFAYEL
Out with it, Woman. What are you getting at?
 
ANAHIT
I want the old you, Rafik, the man I married thirty years ago. No sooner were we married than I couldn’t say hello to any other man. You wouldn’t allow me to take the trolley-bus. What would have happened if someone had touched your wife? You forced me to quit work so I’d have no contact with people.
 
RAFAYEL
Would you have wanted me to be jealous all these years, you, a woman
above reproach?
 
ANAHIT
I want you to pay more attention—to show more interest than before.
 
RAFAYEL
Haven’t I always been there for you?
 
ANAHIT
How do you know what I’ve been up to?
 
RAFAYEL
Mind your tongue!
 
ANAHIT
You can say things about me, but I can’t say things about you? If you ask
me, you’ve got a lot to answer for.
 
RAFAYEL
Have you had your say? (He embraces her.) You’re still beautiful,  ANAHIT, believe me. The whole time I’ve wanted you all for myself, not out charming dental patients. If anyone gives you the come-on, do you know what I’d do? If you hadn’t given up work, I wouldn’t have been the man I am, and the father of our children.
 
ANAHIT
You must be kidding, Rafik.
 
RAFAYEL
Would I kid you? (ARSEN comes in.)
 
ARSEN
Rafik, what are those bulldozers doing in our street. They’re not building a skyscraper, are they? Go to the city council and complain they’ve overlooked the historical status of our neighborhood. There’s virtually none of the old parts of town left. Better take me with you.
 
RAFAYEL
No need, Dad. I’ll go myself.
 
ARSEN
See you talk to an older clerk. The young ones don’t have any sense of nostalgia.
Who gives a crap today about Kond, Kozer, Ghantar, Afrikov, and the other famous old quarters of town. They really knew how to build houses in those days. Ah . . .
 
(The telephone rings.)
 
RAFAYEL
I’ll tell them, Dad.
 
ARSEN
I know you will, my boy. If you set your mind to do something, you do it. (He goes out.)
 
RAFAYEL
(Picking up the receiver) Did that fool go yet? I feel sorry for him, but what can I do if he’s an idiot. I told him, didn’t I, to send someone with the pipes. We have to receive shipment of the rails on time, Vanik. Tie a knot in your handkerchief. Even if you get knotted yourself. Though you have to steal them before their very eyes. He’ll come through. He’s a fool, but he’s a sharp bastard. If he weren’t so cunning, why would I keep him on? Don’t you go hanging your head. I put a high price on you, too. You’re no less crafty. Hang in there. (He hangs up, sits down on the sofa, and starts to read the paper.) ANAHIT, see if you can find the lottery tickets we put in one of these books. Check the numbers against the draw in the newspaper. People ask why I do the lottery. Well, you can’t win if you don’t play. Have you found it? Great. Check it then.
 
(ANAHIT checks the lottery tickets. RAFAYEL feigns indifference and continues reading his paper.)
 
ANAHIT
We’re in with a chance. The first number matches.
 
RAFAYEL
Close the ventilator, there’s a draft. Pass me my glasses. You get all excited and then become frustrated afterward. Watch I don’t miss the time for my next pills.
 
ANAHIT
We’ve got that one, too. Yes, yes. (She cries.) We’ve won, Rafik. We’ve won!
 
RAFAYEL
What’ve we won? Sure, maybe a sewing machine, if we’re lucky.
 
ANAHIT
Rafik, we’ve won a Zhiguli with air conditioning.
 
RAFAYEL
Okay. Don’t go jumping over the moon.
 
ANAHIT
Darling Rafik, we’ve won!
 
RAFAYEL
You see. Sometimes we can get lucky, too. It’s not for nothing people say, when God closes a door, he opens a window.
 
ANAHIT
(Excited) If all goes well, we’ll sell this Zhiguli and get some ready cash. It’ll be a tidy sum, I’m sure.
 
RAFAYEL
I’ll say. It’ll be the cost price of the car and double that on the black market.
 
ANAHIT
Do we need all that money, Rafik? Let’s not get in over our heads.
 
RAFAYEL
But, ANAHIT, who buys a car these days at the manufacturer’s list price? I’m not against what you say. Honesty’s a good thing, don’t get me wrong. But idiocy’s nothing to brag about either. Are we saints, or what?
 
ANAHIT
You know best, Rafik. You’re the man of the house.
 
RAFAYEL
Get on the phone. Call your family, call your friends. Make everybody happy.
 
ANAHIT
Of course. Right away. There’s nothing worse than keeping your joy to yourself.
 
RAFAYEL
Maybe I should look through the rest of the tickets? Now that we’ve begun, I might as well finish the job.
(ANAHIT goes out. RAFAYEL continues looking through the tickets in a perfunctory way.  Suddenly he cries out.) ANAHIT,  ANAHIT, we’ve won! As sure’s I’m sitting here, we’ve won. (To himself) Wow, how did this come about? What a real stroke of luck! ANAHIT! (ANAHIT rushes in, in amazement.RAFAYEL beams with joy.) Check the ticket against the paper.
 
ANAHIT
What’ve we won?
 
RAFAYEL
A fridge, a Saratov. A neat little fridge.
 
ANAHIT
What’s got into you? You hardly made a squeak over the Zhiguli, and now you’re making a big deal out of a small fridge. What am I going to do with a Saratov?
 
HASMIK
(Entering in a joyful mood, almost running, carrying a paper) It’s in the press. It’ll appear tomorrow. Here are the proofs. (Seeing her father, she falls into an embarrassed silence.)
 
RAFAYEL
A daughter of mine, a published author. What is it, a poem, a short story,
a review?
 
ANAHIT
HASMIK and I placed a personal ad in the Rainbow magazine. She’s looking for a husband.
 
RAFAYEL
(He snatches the paper out of his daughter’s hand and reads.) “Twenty-seven years old, divorced, no children, lives with parents, college degree. Height: one meter 70; weight: 65 kilos.” (Furious) What kind of a caption is Keen to Marry? You’ll make a laughingstock out of me. I’ll never be able to live this down. (He quotes.)  
“Seeking to marry a handsome young man, 28–30, attractive, college graduate, professional, likes poetry and music, tall, with sky-blue eyes, and black hair, has an apartment with ambience. Contact  HASMIK Avetyan, Box 212, c/o Central Post Office.” How did you come up with such a vulgar scheme?
 
HASMIK
Daddy—
 
RAFAYEL
Don’t Daddy me. You’re sending a brazen solicitation to men. And it’s some hell of an invitation. Why didn’t you come right out and say, “I implore you. Please come and marry my one meter 70 height and 65 kilograms weight.”
 
HASMIK
The ad department at the magazine wrote it up. I had nothing to do with it.
 
ANAHIT
Don’t forget, Rafik. You precipitated your daughter’s divorce. “I won’t allow my daughter to live in poverty.” Does that ring a bell? You’re trying to train your son to live modestly. Why should your daughter have a life of luxury?
 
RAFAYEL
I didn’t say “a life of luxury.” I said a normal life. Not on two hundred and ten rubles, with both of them working.
 
ANAHIT
What could the poor boy do? Steal?
 
RAFAYEL
I don’t know. Maybe people like that can run the country, but they can’t
keep house.
 
ANAHIT
So your whole family should live honestly, except him? It doesn’t make sense. It didn’t then, and it doesn’t now. (The phone rings. ANAHIT picks up the receiver and answers with annoyance.) What’s that? What do you want? There’s no katanka.What can I do about it? Let the industrial complex grind to a halt. It’s already at a standstill . . . Even if it’s my father’s house they were building, they wouldn’t move any faster. You’d think katanka was the only thing they’re out of and they’re swimming in everything else.
 
(Katanka refers to a type of rolled sheet metal employed for various industrial purposes.)
 
RAFAYEL
(Removing the receiver from her hands) What on earth do you want from me? I haven’t been sick in years. Now I’m off sick and I’m on sick leave. Don’t I have the right? To hell with your factory. (He puts down the receiver, pensively.) So there’s still no katanka? I don’t know what the hell to do.
 
HASMIK
Let’s end the talk about my marriage. I married him, but I didn’t love him. I’m to blame for everything. No one else.
 
RAFAYEL
(Embracing his daughter) Thank you, my girl. Thank you. People often like to blame their misfortunes on others. It’s the easy way out. Still, if it’ll help, I’ll take the blame.
 
HASMIK
(Pulling back from his embrace, and walking away): Don’t do me any favors, Dad. I’m not blaming anyone.
 
RAFAYEL
HASMIK, did you know we won a fridge?
 
HASMIK
What sort of fridge?
 
RAFAYEL
A Saratov. In the lottery.
 
ANAHIT
Never mind about the fridge. Tell her about the Zhiguli, Rafik.
 
HASMIK
What Zhiguli?
 
ANAHIT
We’ve won a Zhiguli, HASMIK. A Zhiguli. With air conditioning. For thirty kopecks. Can you imagine?
 
HASMIK
I don’t believe it. A Zhiguli?
 
ANAHIT
I didn’t believe it either.
 
RAFAYEL
Why don’t you get out there and find a husband yourself, HASMIK? Any
man would fall for you on your good looks alone.
 
HASMIK
I don’t know, Dad. It doesn’t always work out like that.
 
RAFAYEL
What do you mean, “it doesn’t work out?” You must have met a guy you liked. So go for it. Grab hold of happiness. Take a chance. What can you lose?
 
HASMIK
I don’t know what you’re driving at, Dad?
 
ANAHIT
What’s got into you, Rafik?
 
RAFAYEL
I’m talking about happiness, real happiness. What’s there not to understand? The happiness life owes us. Everyone of us should be happy. Look at HASMIK. “It doesn’t work out.” So she throws in the towel. This ad’s an admission of failure before the world. I’ll show you what to do. (Suddenly he embraces his daughter again.) Pick a guy, any guy, and I guarantee he’ll marry you. Do you hear me? Guarantee. He’ll declare his love for you on bended knee. He’ll grovel before you. Just say the word and I’ll do it. Forget about this piece of trash. Okay? (HASMIK breaks away from her father’s embrace and runs out; RAFAYEL and ANAHIT are silent.) How do you think I handled it? I mean, really? I can’t read your mind. I want to know. Am I right or wrong?
 
ANAHIT
Wrong. Call Mnakyan, Rafik.
 
RAFAYEL
Wrong for parents to solve their children’s problems day and night. When they were students, we did their homework for them. We got them admitted to the university, and now we’re running their family life, too. Small wonder they’re so late maturing these days. It’s only after they’re fifty they can take on any serious work. We do everything for them and then wonder why they can’t do a thing.
 
ANAHIT
That doesn’t mean we should throw VIGEN into the lions’ den to survive by his wits.
 
RAFAYEL
That’s the only way to learn.
 
ANAHIT
He’ll be eaten alive before he learns anything.
 
RAFAYEL
That’s the risk you take in life.
 
(RAFAYEL’s sister, ELEONORA, and her two children come in, carrying two suitcases.)
 
ELEONORA
(Scolding him) Remember me? It’s me. Your sister, ELEONORA. And these are your nieces. This one’s ELYA and that’s Nora. (To the children) This is your Uncle Rafik.
 
RAFAYEL
What’s up? Why are you giving me such a hard time?
 
NORA
Mom and Dad have broken up again.
 
ELYA
Because Daddy’s cheating on Mom.
 
RAFAYEL
Good for you, Sis. You’ve done a good job educating them.
 
ELEONORA
Don’t you like us? You don’t even know where we live. If only you’d come over once in a while. You’d have been a positive influence on the kids. And you could have stood up for your sister and taught that moron a thing or two. (In tears) The whole city envies me for having a brother like you. So get me a decent job. I have to work to support these kids. They’re both high flyers at school and help out a lot at home. Guess who they take after? Give me a hundred rubles. I’ll pay you back. When I get the job. We can’t go back to that house.
 
RAFAYEL
So, stay here.
 
ANAHIT
Stay, stay. Your brother’s house is your house.
 
ELEONORA
Oh hi, ANAHIT dear. You look great. Maybe a little heavier? (To RAFAYEL) How’s your father? Does he still get around?
 
RAFAYEL
He’s fine,  ELEONORA  ARSENovna.
 
ANAHIT
Okay, okay. Don’t start again. Let’s go, ELYA. Come on, kids.
 
ELEONORA
This is my luck, Rafik. (Taking the suitcases) They saw me off, and now they’ve seen me back again.
(They all leave.)
 
RAFAYEL
(To himself ) You’re welcome. Welcome. (The doorbell rings.) ANAHIT, it’s VIGEN, home with the good news. Go congratulate your son. He’s through. I was right about him, and I’ll prove myself right about you, too, HASMIK. I’m always right.
 
(HAMO comes in, accompanied by KARAPETYAN, a personable young man. HAMO carries a large bunch of carnations. RAFAYEL, taken by surprise, looks quizzically at HAMO.)
 
HAMO
This is Karapetyan, boss. The one I said was a man of gold.
 
RAFAYEL
Hello, Comrade Karapetyan. Hamo’s told me a lot about you. Sit down. (Taking HAMO aside) Hamo, I’ve got a job for you.
 
HAMO
Fine, boss. You know me.
 
RAFAYEL
It’s a tough one.
 
HAMO
Right up my alley.
 
RAFAYEL
Ever heard of the Rainbow magazine?
 
HAMO
Isn’t it the supplement to the Evening Erevan?
 
RAFAYEL
Tomorrow morning’s edition mustn’t get into circulation.
 
HAMO
I’ll buy the whole run.
 
RAFAYEL
What? All of it?
 
HAMO
I can’t do anything about subscribers, boss. That’s beyond my powers, and yours too, boss.
 
RAFAYEL
Buy whatever you can. Price is no object. Take them to your summerhouse. I want the pleasure of setting fire to them myself.
 
HAMO
Why did you say just now I’d told you a lot about Karapetyan? I only saw the guy’s face for the first time today.
 
RAFAYEL
I just felt like saying it. So he took the money.
 
HAMO
No.
 
RAFAYEL
He didn’t take it. (Exultant) See! You think you can buy and sell everybody. He’s fresh out of college. See, he had your number. I guess you’re not the fast-talking fixer you thought you were.
 
HAMO
(laughing) The joke’s on you, boss. He took it.
 
(RAFAYEL is dumbfounded and undergoes a dark mood swing.)
 
RAFAYEL
(sneering) Swindlers, twisters. And you call yourselves men. Low-life bastards.
 
HAMO
Who are you talking about, boss?
 
RAFAYEL
Thieves, bloodsuckers, filthy swines.
 
HAMO
What’s the problem, boss?
 
RAFAYEL
Did you give him a lot?
 
HAMO
So much he started to cry. (He looks at KARAPETYAN) You cried, didn’t you?
 
(KARAPETYAN has pressed the briefcase tightly between his knees.)
 
RAFAYEL  
(pointing to the briefcase) Holds a lot, I can see. Czech, isn’t it?
 
KARAPETYAN
(confused) It’s mine.
 
RAFAYEL
It’s yours? It looks very Czech. (Pause) Do you have any children?
 
KARAPETYAN
Two.
 
RAFAYEL 
(playing cat and mouse with KARAPETYAN) I expect you sit them on your lap a lot. You must be very fond of them. You take care they don’t fall. Though why should they fall—
 
HAMO
Any parent would do that.
 
RAFAYEL
Ah, tell me. Were there many violations at the construction works?
 
KARAPETYAN
The usual routine stuff.
 
RAFAYEL
There’s bound to be some shortcoming, surely. (He pours cognac only for himself.) To your health! You’re on the job, or I’d offer you one. (He drinks.)
 
KARAPETYAN
(mumbling) Enjoy.
 
RAFAYEL
So what have you got to say? Just what do you have to tell me?
 
KARAPETYAN
What’s there to tell, Comrade Avetyan.
 
RAFAYEL
Then I’ll tell you something. I’ve just won a fridge in the lottery.
 
KARAPETYAN
Congratulations.
 
RAFAYEL
Small, compact. A Saratov.
 
KARAPETYAN
Good. Well, I’d better be on my way, Comrade Avetyan.
 
RAFAYEL
What’s your hurry? We’re sitting here enjoying ourselves, shooting the breeze. So no violations, huh? An inspector goes to a construction works and finds nothing wrong? You seem like a decent guy. Where are you from?
 
KARAPETYAN
From the Kalinino district.2
 
RAFAYEL
Where exactly?
 
KARAPETYAN
The village of Sarchapet.
 
RAFAYEL
So you’re a country lad, eh? That’s good. When they talk about “the people,” they mean people like you.
 
HAMO
Villager Hambo’s household got into a fight.
 
RAFAYEL
I’m not a villager. I was born in Erevan. On Amiryan Street, right in the center of things. (Getting down to business) By the way, what’s the lowdown on that alleged violation in the pay code regarding one of my workers?
 
KARAPETYAN
Paperwork was filed to issue a paycheck to a worker on leave at a state spa.
 
RAFAYEL
What? They paid a worker his salary when he was on leave at a state spa? At a state spa? (Threateningly) Hamo!
 
HAMO
A subcontractor was— (He doesn’t get a chance to finish what he has to say. RAFAYEL lunges at him.)
 
RAFAYEL
Well I never. Paying a worker at a state spa. Is that a fact?
 
KARAPETYAN
Don’t concern yourself, Comrade Avetyan. The money wasn’t appropriated—
 
RAFAYEL
To a worker. A worker on leave at a state spa.
 
KARAPETYAN
Contain yourself, Comrade Avetyan. They didn’t appropriate the money.
 
RAFAYEL
(He lets HAMO go and moves toward  KARAPETYAN.) Really? I almost had a heart attack. Good you clarified it. So, Hamo, the money wasn’t  appropriated. Too bad you didn’t come across anything major. By bringing it to our attention you’d have done us a good turn. We’re only human, right? We need all the help we can get.
 
KARAPETYAN
Next time, Comrade Avetyan.
 
RAFAYEL
You’d like to inspect our plant again? (Pause. He looks long at  KARAPETYAN from head to toe, scrutinizing him carefully.) Let me see that report. (RAFAYEL takes the report from KARAPETYAN, folds it up carefully, and puts it in his breast pocket.) So then, let me tell you the major infractions we’re committing. The kind all inspectors dream of exposing.
 
KARAPETYAN
No, no. There’s no need. I believe—
 
RAFAYEL
Just listen to this. Four kilometers of rail track were scheduled to have been laid to link the industrial line to the trunk line. Those four kilometers were a joke. A toy railway.  According to our calculations, it should be thirteen. And it’s needed right now. First to complete the complex as fast as possible. Then after it’s built, to deliver raw materials from the main line on time and pick up blue-collar workers from the surrounding villages. Otherwise, what’s the point, if we’re pinning our hopes on that one village alone. So we’re now laying thirteen kilometers of track. Not four. Do you grasp the consequences? Have you ever seen an infraction on that scale in your life?
 
KARAPETYAN
It could be subject to legal proceedings.
 
RAFAYEL
If you’re afraid of wolves, keep out of the forest.
 
KARAPETYAN
But you’re jeopardizing your career, Comrade Avetyan.
 
RAFAYEL
Don’t worry about me. You’ve more need to worry about yourself.
 
KARAPETYAN
But why?
 
RAFAYEL
What do you mean, why?
 
KARAPETYAN
Why are you sticking your neck out like this?
 
RAFAYEL
What neck? What danger? I’m doing something necessary and worthwhile. I’m doing what some namby-pamby guy sitting behind a desk doesn’t dare leastwise understand. But I understand. My head works. What shall I do? Cut it off? Do you think I’m doing it for my own good?
 
KARAPETYAN
Well, who for?
 
RAFAYEL
What do you mean, who for? For your two children. I don’t want to build a huge factory that serves no real purpose. My conscience won’t allow it. Yeah, that’s right. My conscience. Does that seem bizarre to you? Isn’t this my country? (The phone rings. RAFAYEL picks up the receiver.) Who’s this? Who? Who? Oh, it’s you, Mnakyan. Quickly—what did he score? . . . Passed with flying colors? Well done. Did you pass him the envelope with the sweetener? . . . Thanks, Mnakyan. Thanks a million. Wait a minute, why am I thanking you? Wouldn’t I do the same for you? Good you remember what I did for you in the past. (He puts down the receiver. To KARAPETYAN.) I know what you’re thinking. And you’ve a right to. I don’t have a high opinion of myself either. But the fate of the country rests on shoulders like mine, not yours. Hand over the money.
 
KARAPETYAN
(Bluffing, as though misunderstanding) What money?
 
RAFAYEL
Come on, hand it over. Don’t play dumb. (Grabbing him by the collar) When you woke up this morning you were an honest, decent man. Why do you want to wake up tomorrow a crook? Isn’t it a shame you didn’t resist the temptation for a minute. Even one rotten minute, Karapetyan. No! You had to come here and be humiliated? You were a man above reproach. Now you’re a piece of shit! If you were a man, you’d throw all that money down and spit in my face. That moment of triumph would have been worth all this wealth. Sure, with all the wheeling and dealing I’ve had to do, I’ve forgotten what that triumphant pleasure feels like. But you? It’s not too late. Go on, spit at me. You can’t offend me. After all, it’s easy to take money from Hamo. Who the hell’s Hamo to incriminate anybody?
 
HAMO
(sneering) Who the hell’s Hamo—
 
RAFAYEL
All right, Karapetyan, hand over the money. I could tear it out of your hands. But that wouldn’t be nice. You have to hand it over to me yourself. (KARAPETYAN takes the briefcase in both hands and extends it to RAFAYEL, who does not take it. RAFAYEL is silent and looks at him for a long moment.) Are you giving it back out of fear? (KARAPETYAN shakes his head.) Tell me the truth. If you’re doing it out of fear, it’s all pointless. (KARAPETYAN shakes his head.) Keep it. Keep it. You have a wife and kids. Go and have a decent life. Who the hell knows? Maybe it’s the right thing to do. Keep it. Seriously, from my heart. Get out of here.
(KARAPETYAN again extends the briefcase to him. RAFAYEL smiles gently and takes it.)
 
KARAPETYAN
Thank you, Comrade Avetyan. I . . . I . . .
 
RAFAYEL
That’s enough. Thank you, Comrade Karapetyan.
 
(KARAPETYAN runs out, as if relieved of a heavy burden.)
 
HAMO
(puzzled) The jerk gave it back.
 
RAFAYEL
Hamo, tell them to continue working nights on the track. We’ll distribute this money to the workers. Everyone should get a bonus equal to his regular wages. Don’t give it off the books. Make them sign for it. Then tear up the sheet and throw it away. Distribute every last kopeck of the dough in this briefcase. I keep close tabs on my money.
 
HAMO
Sure, sure, boss. Oh I gave the carnations to Auntie ANAHIT.
 
RAFAYEL
Don’t call her “Auntie.” She hates it.
 
HAMO
Mrs. ANAHIT. If you like, I’ll bring you a hundred fresh carnations a day.
 
RAFAYEL
Get going, Hamo. And never set foot in this house again.
 
HAMO
Whatever you say, boss. (He leaves.)
 
VIGEN
(coming in) I got shot down in flames, Dad . . . Didn’t you hear me? And I made such a fuss about connections. Well, there you are. The examiner took the money and flunked me.
 
RAFAYEL
Look me in the eye. You’re putting me on, right? You knew your stuff. You couldn’t have failed.
 
VIGEN
(bursting out laughing) You’re right, Dad. Sure, I was well prepared and Mnakyan must have worked his magic. I passed with flying colors.
 
RAFAYEL
Really, VIGEN? Tell me the truth. You’re not trying to kid me? (Moved, patting his son on the back) Well done, Son. Congratulations. Congratulations on your first success on your own steam. As for that Mnakyan. Do you hear me? Forget about him.
 
VIGEN
But the guy gave me a leg up. If it hadn’t been for him, even with eyes in the back of my head I’d never have gotten through the exam.
 
RAFAYEL
Never mind about Mnakyan. You made it on your own. Everybody’s got a Mnakyan. That’s how things are done. But I know in my heart that you have what it takes. You always showed promise from elementary school on. So don’t give undue credit to anyone else. You did it, and I’m proud of you, Son. We’ve got even more to celebrate. We’ve won a fridge, VIGEN, a Saratov. Yeah, and a Zhiguli.
 
VIGEN
A Zhiguli?
 
RAFAYEL
A Zhiguli with air conditioning.
 
VIGEN
This is too much, Dad. A pass in physics and a Zhiguli, too.
 
RAFAYEL
Pretty soon we’ll be coming into a bit of money, and we’ll be able to get some decent duds. I know you think your pop’s old fashioned and has no sense of style. But just you wait, Son. I’ll show you.
 
VIGEN
You’re okay, Dad.
 
RAFAYEL
(taken by surprise) Oh yeah?
 
VIGEN
You bet.
 
(RAFAYEL discretely wipes away some tears. ARSEN comes in.)
 
ARSEN
(He comes in and kisses his grandson’s brow) Good for you, Son. You’ll grow up to be a big shot like your father. (VIGEN goes out.) Good for you, Rafik. You gave me a great sense of accomplishment.
 
RAFAYEL
How so, Dad?
 
ARSEN
You know. You said you’d look into Sahak’s case. With no further ado, they raised his pension. They didn’t get a measly kopeck. And the deadbeat clerk got fired.
 
RAFAYEL
But I haven’t spoken to anybody yet.
 
ARSEN
Really?
 
RAFAYEL
Really.
 
ARSEN
How’s that, then? When the old geezers on the block heard about the raise, they wanted to come see you. I told them, “Hey boys, he’s not a member of parliament.” But they insisted  you’re no less of a man. There’s no way out of it, Rafik. I think you’ve got to do something to help them.
 
RAFAYEL
(with a sad smile) Sit down, Dad. I’d like to talk to you.
 
ARSEN
Fire away, Rafik.
 
RAFAYEL
Tell me what happened in 1928 when they sent supplies by train from Russia . . . you know, and you had to keep an eye on them.
 
ARSEN
Sure, why not? You’re very fond of that story. I don’t know why. Well, as you were saying, I was keeping an eye on things. Me, pegleg Arsho — oh yes, and my buddy foxy Garsevan. And just our luck, the winter that year was atrociously cold. We were stuck between starvation on the one hand, and bitter cold on the other—
 
RAFAYEL
(suddenly) Just a minute, Dad. Get up, let’s go. Upsy daisy, Dad. (He takes his father carefully by the hand and guides him along.)
 
RAFAYEL’s construction works: comptroller’s Office. RAFAYEL has brought his father with him and sits opposite him.
 
RAFAYEL
Tell your story, Dad. Let them hear it.
 
ARSEN
It was back in 1928. Supplies had been sent from Russia by train. We were keeping an eye on it. Me, pegleg Arsho, and foxy Garsevan. And just our luck, the winter that year was atrocious. With starvation on the one hand, and bitter cold on the other. And we had no heavy clothes. Whatever we had, we bundled up in. We were young and hardy in those days. Besides, we knew that was the way of the world. It was going to be bitter cold with a lot of starvation. On empty bellies we guarded the loaded train night and day. Nobody thought of breaking into it. Sure, we’d joke about it. One day, someone did think of it. The devil tempted foxy Garsevan. Suddenly we noticed a biscuit fall out of his pocket. He looked at us, scared. You won’t believe it, but we were even more scared. We emptied his pockets and found four more.
 
VANIK
(in  RUBEN’s ear) Four biscuits? What’s he wasting our time for?
 
RAFAYEL
Shut up. Listen carefully. Go on, Dad.
 
ARSEN
We took the five biscuits and turned them in, and called the whole village to Foxy’s trial. From that day on, Garso never showed his face. He packed up everything and left the village. Every now and then we’d remember him, but we couldn’t get our tongues round the word “fox.” We used to call him that out of love. Then we really felt sorry for him, I guess.
 
RAFAYEL
(to the chauffeur) Gegham, take Dad home. (With the utmost care, they lead the old man out. ARSEN does not quite know where he has come and why he told that story. He entrusts himself to these strangers’ caring hands and goes out confused.) Well, you heard my father. But what did you learn? . . . Okay, here goes. Avetyan’s not going to be your servant or wait on you hand and foot. Shape up or ship out. You have to go and get what you need. If you can’t get it, I’ll get rid of you. I’ll get rid of you all, one by one. From tomorrow on, we’re working by the book. I’ll give the orders, you carry them out. Katanka, katanka! I’m round the bend with katanka. Go and build the thing without katanka. Make the concrete without cement. Bring the water without a pipe. Lay the track without rails. Learn to work by the rules. If they give us the materials, we’ll build. If not, we can’t.
 
CREW MEMBER
Give us the word, and we’ll quit work.
 
RAFAYEL
Who said that? Who was it? You’ll work all right. And how. Don’t blame the regulations for your lack of ability, as if you could perform miracles if they weren’t there to restrict you. We all need discipline today, like air and water. Every day we need a new dose of it. They ought to spoon feed it to people, like cod-liver oil. The only thing we need today is  discipline—at home, in the street, in the office. Discipline, only discipline.
 
(Some voices are raised in dissatisfaction and gradually blend into a hum. Just at that moment, as if he had planned his entry to the minute, the old treasurer comes in.)
 
TREASURER
All of you, get yourselves to my office on the double to receive your bonus for this quarter. I’m not allowed to keep money in my desk overnight and I’m leaving at seven.
 
(Avetyan’s house. ANAHIT,  ARSEN, the AUNT, BENO, ELEONORA, her two children, and one or two neighbors and friends are sitting around the kitchen table.)
 
AUNT
(passing her plate) I’d love some, ANAHIT. Put some on BENO’s plate, too. Eat up, BENO. Eat up, don’t be bashful. This is our house, too.
 
BENO
Unemployment’s killed my appetite.
 
AUNT
Rafik’ll see you’ll get a job in the buffet.
 
NEIGHBOUR
Rafik, let’s drink to good neighborliness. I hope I’ll always be welcome in this house.
 
ELEONORA
Just a minute, don’t drink. ELYA, first you. Just listen, Rafik.
 
ELYA
(She stands up and immediately begins to recite.)
Look, the in-laws are in the hall,
Ano, Eghso, and Nushi, too.
They’ve come to see the dowry on cue
Before they agree to marry the doll.
 
GUEST
Rafik, you’re an educated man. Are the bears at the North Pole gradually dying out?
 
RAFAYEL
Yeah, that’s right. (To ANAHIT) Who’s that? (ANAHIT shrugs her shoulders.)
 
ARSEN
I propose a toast to VIGEN. He passed with flying colors.
 
ELEONORA
One minute, please. Don’t drink yet. Nora, now it’s your turn. Just listen to this, Rafik.
 
NORA
(She stands and immediately begins to recite.)
I want to be an engineer,
In policeman’s blue or fireman’s red.
A school director has no peer,
But I’ll be an architect instead.
(She cannot remember the rest and sits down in tears.)
 
AUNT
Don’t worry, BENO. Rafik’ll find you a job in the buffet.
 
(The telephone rings, as a relief.)
 
RAFAYEL
(getting up and quickly leaving the kitchen) Hello, Hayk. Congratulations? What for? . . . Me, deputy minister? You’re out of your mind. Hayk, thanks a lot. I’m very touched, but that makes no sense. I don’t know how you set it up, but take it down the same way. I don’t want it, no. That’s all. I just don’t want it. You didn’t arrange it? Well, then, who did? Who else knows my predicament? Besides, I’ve had a heart attack. And the position’s not like going to a state spa. Anushyan’d make a perfect candidate. He’s wanted a shot at the job for years. Why offend the guy? Can’t I say something good about an enemy? If I’m giving it to my enemy, I must really not want it. Of course, I know him well. We were in the same graduating class. He even proposed to ANAHIT. You can say she’s lucky to have turned him down. It’s not for me to say. Let’s see which one of us is right.
(He hangs up and sees ANAHIT.)
 
ANAHIT
They want you for deputy minister and you refuse?
 
RAFAYEL
It’s none of your business.
 
ANAHIT
Whose business is it then? Only yours?
 
RAFAYEL
ANAHIT, don’t get me riled up. Don’t meddle in my affairs.
 
ANAHIT
What are you running from? The position, the office, the high life? You don’t know any of them. Where are you running to?
 
RAFAYEL
Leave me alone, please. I have to quash this business.
 
ANAHIT
(With heavy irony) You’ve had your fill of living high on the hog. Of course, you’re tired of the good things in life. Maybe you’re even sick to your stomach of them. That’s so like you.
 
RAFAYEL
Did you want me to say I’m fed up and tired of you?
 
ANAHIT
I’m going to see Hayk. He’s the only one who can straighten you out.
 
RAFAYEL
Don’t you dare, ANAHIT. If you do, don’t bother coming home.
 
ANAHIT
I’m going, Rafik. With a warped mind like yours, you still need me.
 
RAFAYEL
 ANAHIT, don’t you understand what’s happening? They’re washing their hands of me. They want to put an end to the headaches I’ve given them. They couldn’t care less about the thirteen kilometers of rail link, even though they know I’m right about it. And that’s exactly why they want to make life even more difficult for me. Don’t you understand,  ANAHIT? They’re kicking me upstairs to get rid of me.
 
(ANAHIT is perplexed, keeps silent, and goes off with her head bent. RAFAYEL goes out. VIGEN and HASMIK come in.)
 
VIGEN
I think the ad you put in the paper was a disgrace.
 
HASMIK
Try to understand me, VIGEN.
 
VIGEN
You don’t get married unless I like the guy.
 
HASMIK
I’m glad you’re concerned. This is the first time we’ve sat and talked sister to brother.
 
VIGEN
Don’t give up. Everyone gets their portion of happiness. All you have to do is reach out for it. At any cost. No one’s going to give you a freebee. I’ll show you how.
 
HASMIK
You sound like Rafayel Avetyan.
 
VIGEN
I sound like me. Tomorrow I’ll round up my pals and go from kiosk to kiosk to buy up all the copies of the paper.
 
(RAFAYEL and HAMO come in.)
 
RAFAYEL
I want a word with Hamo in private. (VIGEN and HASMIK go out. RAFAYEL closes the door tightly.) Take a letter. (HAMO sits at a desk and writes.
Dear Comrade Mazmanyan: We are a group of veteran builders and learned with surprise that Rafayel Avetyan has been nominated deputy minister of public works. Have you got all that? We regard it as our duty to inform you that R. Avetyan’s experience and temperament make him unsuitable for such an elevated position of responsibility.
 
HAMO
(continuing the letter on his own) It is not accidental that although he has always occupied supervisory positions, he has not enjoyed the love and respect of his subordinates. Moreover, he has continually failed to complete projects within their assigned time schedule and budget, in consequence of which he has  periodically been moved from one assignment to another.
 
RAFAYEL
You write well, Hamo.
 
HAMO
Comrade Avetyan, for you I can do anything.
 
(RAFAYEL rushes to answer the phone.)
 
RAFAYEL
Azatyan? Listen to me. What’s the allocation for this quarter? Speak up, I can’t hear you. We’re already eight percent over budget? Document it as ninety percent. No more questions. Ninety and be done with it. We won’t get a bonus? Yes we will . . . out of your pocket. We’ll all pitch in. (He puts down the receiver.) Hamo, I suspect someone’s leaking information. I’m afraid the bigwigs at the  Ministry will  move to abort the rail link, and it’ll be too late. We have to get some leverage. Something really effective. Let’s go.
 
(ARUSHANYAN’s Office. ARUSHANYAN and a few officials from the MINISTRY have come together with doleful expressions.)
 
ARUSHANYAN
It’s a stroke of bad luck. What’s there to say?
 
FIRST OFFICIAL
Even with you in place, they’re going to bring in someone from outside?
 
SECOND OFFICIAL
After all this, how are we supposed to work with him?
 
ARUSHANYAN
How’s he going to work with us? What sort of approach will he adopt?
 
THIRD OFFICIAL
I’ve thought of something . . .
 
(The door turns on its hinges and RAFAYEL enters, followed by HAMO and a few other people. Without looking around, RAFAYEL walks straight up to ARUSHANYAN. ARUSHANYAN automatically stands up, rather confused.  RAFAYEL swiftly goes up to him and slaps him without saying anything. Then he turns quickly and goes out with his companions. ARUSHANYAN and his colleagues, perplexed, look toward the door, which has been left open, without comprehending what has happened. Rafayel Avetyan and his supporters triumphantly walk along the corridor of the MINISTRY.)
 
RAFAYEL
Now let’s see who they appoint. At least it was good to get some revenge in the process. I had some old scores to settle with him.
 
Curtain
 


The Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
© Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance, 2012. All rights reserved.

No reproduction of this text is permitted. Performance rights must be secured for any performance.